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This little spinning toy separate blood components as efficient as a commercial centrifuge!

This little spinning toy separate blood components as efficient as a commercial centrifuge!

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A recent invention from Stanford University might be an aid in medical diagnosis for developing countries and remote locations. A 20 cent (14 INR) worth paper pinwheel can separate blood constituents as efficiently as that of a commercial centrifuge. 

Editor Posted by Ansheed

Joy spinning turned out to be a medical need!

None of us might forget our childhood toys especially if we make it ourselves! One such childhood wonder has turned out to be a serious medical tool, which might be very crucial in remote parts of the world. It’s our ‘whirligig’ being mentioned in the context. Then it was a spinning fun, but today that spin has got a great meaning.  Researchers from Stanford University of Palo Alto, California led by Bioengineer Manu Prakash has come up something that is so cheap costing just 20 cents, as well as utility wise it is a great deal to have a spinning ‘paper-fuge’. In order to find a handheld centrifuge, researchers considered everything from egg beater to toys. Some toys like yo-yo’s, spinning top, etc. were used, but none of them couldn’t achieve the results. It was then the whirligig came for rescue, satisfying all requirements needed to improvising the toy into a medical tool.

Whirligig to Paperfuge

The main hurdle was the rpm or revolutions per minute that is required for separating the blood components. A commercial centrifuge used in the labs would costs anywhere between 15000 INR to even 2 lakh rupees. Though lower end models are available, speeds like 1 lakh rpm are impossible with such variants. But Whirligig was found to spin much faster than everyone expectation cracking whopping 125,000 revolutions in a minute, which is in fact 25% faster than the top end centrifuges used.

This 5000-year-old toy has a global recognition, low budget and DIY thrill would have made it so popular, now making its entry into serious science. The string attached to the rotating disc is supercoiled and pulled apart to release energy which will rotate the disc, it is counteracted by spinning motion which will put it back into its original position. The simultaneous motion would generate a consistent speed of up to 125000 rpm. 

Making out to labs.

In order to learn its field efficacy, the researchers had decided to use this Paperfuge in Madagascar clinics to see if it’s operationally and utility wise a success.  It can be used to separate blood compounds which can easily be used to diagnose for Malaria, HIV, and Anemia etc. In one pilot test scientists were able to isolate malaria parasite from a blood sample in just under 15 minutes of spinning, which is more or less equal to commercial versions. With this handheld innovation now the developing countries can fast track their diagnosis which will save them time, money and lives. Also, the cheap costs would make it affordable for them and no electricity is required for any of its working! 


Hand-powered ultralow-cost paper centrifuge.